RENO (CBS / AP) — A seven-year study shows many mountain lions in Nevada are migrating westward to take up residence in California.

The findings ran counter to the expectations of researchers, who thought the cougars would move eastward from California to Nevada.

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Because lions are hunted in Nevada but not in California, biologists thought more of the territorial predators would migrate east into Nevada habitat made available when lions were killed by hunters.

Researchers theorize the animals could be drawn to California because the Sierra offers lusher habitat with a greater selection of prey than Nevada’s arid mountains.

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The study was conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society, University of Nevada, Reno and Nevada Department of Wildlife.

California is home to 4,000 to 6,000 cougars compared to Nevada’s 3,000.

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